Universal Design Improves Access Compliance

An old red bus on the street.What can you do to improve compliance with disability access standards when they are misunderstood, seen as too hard to implement, and where buildings are in a serious state of disrepair? This was the challenge set by Australia’s overseas aid program in Sri Lanka. The aim of this project was to find a way to educate built environment professionals in Sri Lanka about complying with disability access regulations. Rather than take a text book approach to explaining the standards, the training group decided to take a universal design approach. That meant focusing on the reasons why certain designs were needed, not just the need to apply the standard.

In her paper on this project, Penny Galbraith details the particular issues Sri Lanka faces. Major heritage sites, assets in complete disrepair, obsolete infrastructure, and transport conveyance designs from previous centuries all contribute to the complexities. “Universal design was the ideal starting point, not least because of its emphasis on users, but also that it allows for acknowledging and embracing cultural factors which is very important given ethnic tension in Sri Lanka”. 

An interesting application of the principles of universal design. It shows that reducing barriers in the built environment is reliant on understanding why, not just how to comply. The title of the paper is, A Practitioner’s Universal Design Approach Making a Difference to Distressed Assets in Sri Lanka

The paper is from the proceedings of the UDHEIT 2018 conference held in Dublin, Ireland, an open access publication.

Design Council Inclusive Environments CPD

header page for the Design Council CPD course showing a montage of pictures.Inclusion is everybody’s business. By definition it isn’t a fringe activity. Inclusion requires everyone to be involved. In the built environment that means people involved in commissioning places and spaces as well as the trades and certifiers. So it goes beyond access codes and leaving it to access consultants. To help, the Design Council has a free interactive online Inclusive Environments CPD training course. It is about raising awareness of population diversity and why we should be designing more fairly and sustainably. There is also a searchable resource hub that has relevant information and discussion on this subject.  

Survey of architects on UD education and implementation

architecture blueprint with rule and pencilThis paper reports on a survey of architects, architecture educators, and architectural technologists in Ireland to find out how they are dealing with the implementation of universal design principles. The researchers (Eoghan C.O. Shea, Megan Basnak, Merritt Bucholz, & Edward Steinfeld) sought to address the following questions in the survey:

1. How inherent is Universal Design knowledge to current building design practice?

2. What are the current Universal Design education and training needs of Architects and Architectural Technologists practising in Ireland?

3. Which Universal Design themes and topics are of most interest to Architects and Architectural Technologists practising in Ireland?

4. To what extent does existing CPD for Architects and Architectural Technologists practising in Ireland address Universal Design topics?

5. What can motivate Architects and Architectural Technologists practising in Ireland to access Universal Design CPD?

6. What are the most effective means by which to deliver Universal Design CPD to Architects and Architectural Technologists practising in Ireland?

The survey is one phase of a longer study aimed at providing a research base for developing CPD in Universal Design for Architects and Architectural Technologists practising in Ireland.

In Promoting Universal Design in Architectural Education, Jim Harrison, Kevin Busby, and Linda Horgan, argue there are some design tutors who perpetuate negative attitudes toward any change in design thinking or process. Hence they influence their students and practices don’t change. This paper provides an interesting and comprehensive discussion on ways in which architecture and design schools can include universal design into their curricula, and how they can work with other professionals such as occupational therapists who can explain the functionality of designs.Unfortunately this paper is published in a small Italic font and is difficult to read. 

Manufacturing a UD design process

aerial view of three people at a desk looking at a set of construction drawingsA straightforward introduction to this paper from Japan argues that UD should have been thought of a long time ago, but wasn’t. So inclusive thinking hasn’t been part of conventional design processes. This poses difficulties for industrial designers, and if being inclusive doesn’t fit their processes, there is a tendency for designers to put UD in the “too hard” basket. The authors have developed a design process model that takes designers from conventional design processes to one that is more inclusive. The title of the paper is Universal Design Models of Development Lifecycle Process. Here is an excerpt from the introduction:

“UD should originally have been the basic concept behind manufacturing, but lack of recognition until now has created a large gap between the ideal and reality. Hence, many of the responsibilities will fall on the UD designers. As a result, designers will request from the UD promoters only a list of minimum UD requirements and asking them to settle for simple, offhand solutions to avoid developmental delays. In response, the UD promoters will emphasize the need to implement more than the minimum requirements by pointing out the difficulties of overcoming conflicts that arise from various user demands. Convincing the designers is a hard task. Currently there are very few examples or methods to explain the differences between conventional and UD design processes. Many times the designers think that UD design process will be the same as conventional ones, or they give up because they believe numerous UD knowledge and experiences are necessary.”

The paper then goes on to describe three ways of re-thinking the design process. Although somewhat technical in parts, it is another view of how to think about designing universally.

conference logo The paper was presented at the 2nd International Conference for Universal Design in Kyoto 2006 (just released on Research Gate). It was attended by 14,000 participants from 29 countries. Their next conference will be held in Thailand 4-6 March 2019